There are so many things I definitely don’t miss about breastfeeding, like the anxiety, engorgement, being beholden to another creature's somewhat unpredictable hunger pangs, pumping, and all the washing, shlepping, and sucking (literally and figuratively) that goes along with it. Good riddance to all of it. However, after four consecutive years of sustaining my children with my body, there were some weird things I actually missed when I was done breastfeeding. All those times I felt trapped on the couch with a nursing infant have turned out to be pretty fond memories.
That’s the thing about motherhood, especially in its earliest days: there’s a whirlwind of activity, and emotion, and grappling with my new identity, and it feels overwhelming, then before I know it I'm past the newborn stage and there’s a whole host of new milestones and considerations I need to make for the next phase of my child’s life. There is never a moment to reflect, though, and really process the changes I'm going through as a parent. It all feels like so much, and when that stresses me out I tend to cast a negative light on this angst-ridden period where my sole goal was to keep my child alive because I was the mom.
Now, years later, I can look back on those early moments with a sense of wonder. I grew and gave birth to two babies. I nourished them and they thrived. I made it through maternity leave and the fifth trimester, and, though we all snap at each other a lot, our family of four is doing OK, in the sense that we are able to at least laugh a few times a day.
The Excuse To Sit
Parenting is exhausting. Having a reason to sit for at least 30 minutes, even if it was in service to my child, was lovely. It wasn’t luxurious (especially if I forgot to empty my bladder beforehand), but I did look forward to these periods of guilt-free TV watching. Oh, um. I mean nursing sessions.
The Spontaneous Napping
“Sleep when the baby sleeps” is terrible advice. However, “sleep when the baby eats” actually worked for me. When the baby napped, I saw it as my chance to get things done: shower, eat, pay a bill, and whatever else I had yet to accomplish. As a result, I rarely rested during the day. However, when the baby nursed, I’d conk out.
To my defense, I was held captive, seated on my most comfortable piece of furniture, and the baby was occupied. I’d grab the remote and the next thing I’d know, I’d wake up an hour later. This happened more with my second kid than my first, since I was so paranoid about my firstborn falling asleep before getting her fill. Wth my second child, though, most of that new parent anxiety had evaporated and, more importantly, I really needed sleep.
When I wasn’t crashing out while nursing, I was commanding an audience. Clearly I couldn’t move, so people had to come to me. I felt rather regal, despite wearing an unwashed nursing top and the half-donut of a pillow wrapped around my middle.
Your Baby’s Focus
My children have never focused on anything so singularly, or intently, as they did on breastfeeding when they were babies. Barely anything distracted them (since I muted the TV if I had it on) from the task of eating.
Not only did this shore up my confidence that they liked what they were getting from me, but it showed me that they didn’t need much guidance from me at times. This helped in curbing some stifling helicopter mom behavior I found myself gravitating towards later in their lives.
Having People Do Things For You
Being held hostage on the couch during cluster feedings was not the ideal way to get my partner to bring me beverages and fetch me reading material, but it was definitely effective. After all, I wasn’t just sitting there. Oh no, dear reader, I was actively nourishing our child. The least he could do was to freshen my water glass (and bring me another pillow, and reposition my foot rest, and whatever else I required).
I have never outgrown my childhood habit of daydreaming. I look to an imagined future of accepting an Academy Award, or a hypothetical Hawaiian vacation. When else am I free to think about such things, other than when I was feeding my kid? There was nothing else I needed to be doing in those moments other than fantasizing (and burping the baby to avoid the gassy crying fits).
Picking At The Baby’s Cradle Crap
Gross, I know. However, when else will the baby be perfectly still for me to peel dead skin off his head? It’s just so satisfying.
Tracking The Kid’s Growth
Babies grow so rapidly, but it’s not like I could really tell. One day I was able to close a onesie, and the next day it wouldn't snap shut. So I learned to gauge my babies’ growth by seeing how much of the nursing pillow they were laying on. It was remarkable to notice how much more (and more) of the pillow they were covering when we’d settle in for a feeding. I loved getting this close-up, consistent view of how big they were getting (thanks to my breast milk, of course).
Easy Wardrobe Decisions
Button downs and nursing tops were my only options when I was breastfeeding. Since I wasn’t going to be breastfeeding forever, I didn’t invest much in my postpartum wardrobe. I had enough shirts to get me through the week and until laundry day. That made deciding what to wear much easier than it was before having kids.
Using It As A Reason To Get Out Of Social Engagements
The introverted side of me loved holding up breastfeeding as a reason why I couldn’t be social. I didn’t really want to go out much when my kids were tiny babies, mostly because I worked full-time and never felt like I was spending enough waking hours with them. If I went out, I’d have to calculate how to pump in lieu of a missed breastfeeding session, and that was just too much coordination for my exhausted brain. It was just easier to politely turn down social events and hunker down with the kid on the couch. I could go to movies any time, but breastfeeding my children was not going to last forever.